Matthew Gomez is living every traveler’s worst fear.
Matthew, 27, was vacationing with his father Pablo Gomez last month in Cancún, Mexico.
On Sept. 19, the two were driving on rented scooters back to their hotel after a day of fishing when a taxi pulled in front of Matthew in an intersection.
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According to his mother Lorraine Vigil-Romero, Matthew’s list of severe injuries include a fractured left leg, broken ribs, fractured right wrist and head trauma, including bleeding on the brain.
“I’m scared. I’m an American in a foreign country,” said Lorraine during a phone interview from Cancún to Oil City News.
Lorraine and other family rushed to Mexico to be with Matthew after the accident. Now most other family members have had to leave, leaving Lorraine to work through the nightmare.
Matthew’s family is discovering how difficult health care can be for travelers abroad. Hospitals in Mexico require payment upfront from non-citizens, or at the very least payment arrangements.
Lorraine has spent thousands of dollars so far thanks to help from family and friends. She says the first stop in the emergency room was $17,000.
There, family members slept on the hospital floor while the agonizing hours went by. Strangers stepped in to help. “People would come from church and bring food so we could eat, they did everything to make us comfortable. We prayed outside, every day and night,” said Lorraine.
Matthew was transported to another hospital after he was stabilized, and the bills are piling up to repair his shattered body.
“I can’t afford to pay for therapy,” said Lorraine, who is doing physical therapy on her own with Matthew. She has also been fighting political red tape with the taxi company and local police, exacerbated by the language barrier. “I’ve been here for ten days and I haven’t slept…my son is very, very sick.”
Getting Matthew well enough to fly back to Casper is half the battle. He’ll need much more care when he gets back here. “It’s going to affect his body for the rest of his life,” said Lorraine.
Accidents during vacations aren’t unheard of. “It’s more common than you’d expect,” said Casper personal injury attorney Tom Metier of the Metier Law Firm.
“It’s important for folks traveling abroad to get insurance,” said Metier. “Health and accident insurance premiums for travel are really not very expensive compared to the potential exposure you may have.”
“When we’re traveling abroad where the laws are different than here, or where the responsibilities are different than what we’d expect, that’s a very important thing to do…it applies United States standards to your foreign experience,” said Metier.
Metier says the path to navigating a situation such as Matthew’s involves hiring a qualified attorney at home and contacting the U.S. consulate to help find legal help there.
Other variables might eventually help Matthew’s family, such as his own auto insurance, liability on the taxi service, insurance on the rented scooter or even the hotel if the scooter was rented there.
No matter what, the situation is enormously complicated. The family hasn’t received compensation from the taxi company and aren’t sure they ever will. “I still have no justice for my son, I still have to pay bills,” said Lorraine.
“I’m here alone, all it has been is fighting (with officials). People want to know where their money is. I just want my son to be alive and I want to bring him home.”
Family and friends are attempting to raise money to help with Matthew’s care and eventual return home. An account has been set up at Jonah Bank for the benefit of Matthew Gomez. A bake sale and benefit dinner organized by family and friends is scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 6, at 204 North Sun Drive starting at 11:00. A GoFundMe account has been established and can be seen here.